CANADA

An Olympian sales job

PAUL KAIHLA July 4 1988
CANADA

An Olympian sales job

PAUL KAIHLA July 4 1988

An Olympian sales job

The economic summit provided Toronto with an opportunity to promote itself to an international audience in its bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympics. With that in mind, governments and businesses spent more than $2.25 million to provide food, drinks, souvenirs—even passes to local attractions such as the CN Tower—for the delegates, reporters and technicians covering the summit, including 1,400 from outside the country. But while the correspondents seemed to enjoy the hospitality on the summit site, few of them had any time to explore Toronto, let alone report extensively on it to their readers, viewers or listeners back home.

For its part, the 162-member White House press corps—the largest foreign media delegation at the Toronto summit—arrived on a chartered jet after the official opening on Sunday, and left within an hour of Reagan’s Tuesday night farewell speech. Indeed, the invitation to experience the city’s delights was wasted on other foreign journalists, including Jan Werts, a correspondent for the Netherlands newspaper Haagsche Courant. Said Werts: “The reporters have no time—that’s not why they come. It’s a mistake governments make every time.”

Still, major dailies such as the Financial Times of London, Le Monde in Paris and West Germany’s Die Welt ran lengthy reports describing how Toronto had developed from its puritanical, Presbyterian past to become a thriving metropolis of diverse ethnic groups. One Tokyo TV

station broadcast a half-hour special on Toronto that nicknamed it “the people city.” Many reports remarked on the cleanliness and safety of Toronto streets. The tent city erected to feed and entertain the media inspired a Boston Globe reporter to write: “British actor Peter Ustinov once said that Toronto is like New York would be if it were run by the Swiss, but this week it’s more like Minneapolis if that city were run by the Ringling Brothers.”

But the efforts seemed to have little impact on the Lausanne-based International Olympic Committee, which will choose the site of the 1996 Games. The summit put “a plus on the city’s résumé,” IOC spokesman Michèle Verdier told Maclean’s, “but it will not have a direct influence on the choice.”

PAUL KAIHLA